Makueni County Livelihood is based on Mixed farming and Agriculture in the area accounts for 78 percent of the total household income.
The sector is also the most important driver of economic growth within the country and the main crops in the area are maize, beans, pigeon peas, sorghum and cassava among others.
Farmers have been depending on rains which have become erratic and poorly distributed but more so , there has been low adoption of improved production technologies . Inputs are also expensive thus most peasant farmers cannot be able to afford.
Mbuvo Commercial Village, in Makueni, it is one of the transformations most farmers can relate with considering that the group has become independent and not rely on food aid , but also become a trading block with numerous businesses transaction that has seen them grow and uplift themselves.
“This region has been plagued by drought, famine and acute food shortage for the longest time, and most of us were dependent on food aid. But I want to say not anymore and all is not lost”, Chairman of the Mbuvo commercial village Joseph Masyuki says.
He explains that 380 members came together in 2011 to transform their lives through farming and engaging together as a group and be able to improve production of various crops and also sell their produce together .
This, he added would be able to address not only the issue of food security in the area but also ensure the livelihoods of members of the group and community at large rise.
Masyuke says noting that out of the 53 groups that were started in the region, theirs is the only one that managed to stay afloat and is still existing to date.
Although we have been planting cassava, cowpeas and selling as a group, members have been able to benefit as they are able to save in small quantities through savings and credit scheme that encourages farmers to save and borrow money within their Commercial Villages
When we started out and were introduced by an organization known as farm concern international, we purchased one-acre plot at a cost of Ksh. 80,000 and started developing the plot with an intention to set up a cassava processing plant, the chairman said
The sale of their products namely Cassava and pulses according to the chairman are able to fetch good markets thanks to EAGC who have linked them up with various markets and traders and seen most members transform their lives from paying school fees for their children and others have upgraded their houses and started various business with ease.
“Two women in our group have managed to get Ksh 42,000 each from their produce after sale and bought 5,000 litre water storage tanks, another lady bought a motorbike which brings her income of Ksh 400 per day , another member has bought iron sheets and constructed a better house while others have been able to meet school fees needs from their proceeds of aggregated pulses”, the chairman said.
Masyuke noted that the group has benefitted more through capacity building from various organizations saying EAGC has assisted them since 2015 by post-harvest management and SME training and even bought for them digital weighing scales to avoid middle men who take advantage when it comes to selling their harvests.
The Commercial Villages, the chairman noted do not however replace existing farmer systems but are designed to integrate and upgrade existing structures and normally brings households together depending on their land size and the commodities that they trade.
EAGC basically has been facilitating access to existing and profitable markets in the target region since 2015 through holding forums where farmers not only link and access with buyers but also learn skills that help them improve on their production.